HOUSTON -- Defending champion Ryan Sweeting of the United States held off qualifier Ricardo Mello of Brazil 6-3, 7-6 (6) in a first-round match of the U.S. men's clay court championships on Tuesday night.
Sweeting took a 6-3 lead in the tiebreaker but then double-faulted, hit a forehand into the net and sailed a backhand behind the baseline to tie it. Mello then hit two forehand errors to end the match.
Sweeting is unseeded this year and his ranking has fallen from 93 at last year's event to 143.
Sweeting missed a chance to take charge of the second set when he took Mello to three break points in the 11th game before Mello fought back to hold for a 6-5 lead. Sweeting held serve in the 12th game to force the tiebreaker.
In earlier opening-round matches, Igor Kunitsyn of Russia beat Xavier Malisse of Belgium 6-4, 6-2, Paolo Lorenzi of Italy beat Wayne Odesnik of the U.S. 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-3 and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina beat Adrian Ungur of Romania 6-3, 6-3.